New Zika infection fears spark renewed debate on abortion, birth control

By Tom Tracy

a growing number of U.S. travelers returning from abroad with the Zika virus
and with several cases of Zika-related microcephaly and birth defects reported
in the U.S., the disease has inflamed the abortion debate domestically.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. a Republican
from Miami, where the Zika virus has now started spreading in one neighborhood
through mosquito transmission, said he does not believe the Zika virus should
be a pretext for an infected pregnant woman to get an abortion.

Rubio met in Miami Aug. 4 with Dr.
Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and
Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott. The senator also was making a renewed push to call
the U.S. Congress back into session to approve funding for combating Zika
domestically and to introduce legislation that would provide U.S. troops
serving in high-risk areas with additional protections from Zika.

He also reportedly told the news
magazine Politico Aug. 8: “Obviously, microcephaly is a terrible prenatal
condition that kids are born with. And when they are, it’s a lifetime of
difficulties,” he said. “So I get it. I’m not pretending to you that
that’s an easy question you asked me. But I’m pro-life. And I’m strongly
pro-life. I believe all human life should be protected by our law, irrespective
of the circumstances or condition of that life.”

Earlier this year, Rubio
co-sponsored President Barack Obama’s Zika-fighting legislation, which failed
to pass into law in part because of partisan divisions over the bill’s
inclusion of components of birth control services from Planned Parenthood.

New York and California
officials have indicated cases of babies in those states born with Zika-related
microcephaly, and at least 15 babies nationally have been born with Zika-related
birth defects as of late July, according to the CDC.

In February, the National
Catholic Bioethics Center issued a statement that Zika does not justify
abortion or artificial birth control even with the suspected connection between
the Zika virus and birth defects.

Zika is the most recent and
high-profile instance of any number of diseases that might have deleterious
effects on the unborn children whose mothers contract it while pregnant, the
statement noted.

“In no way, however, would it
justify a change in the Catholic Church’s consistent teachings on the
sacredness and inviolability of human life and the dignity and beauty of the
means of transmitting life through marital relations. Direct abortion and
contraceptive acts are intrinsically immoral and contrary to these great goods,
and no circumstances can justify either.”

In February, U.N. officials said
pregnant women infected with the Zika virus should be allowed easier access to
abortion and birth control and criticized countries whose governments urged
women told hold off getting pregnant as Zika cases have increased.

In New York, Father Frank
Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, issued a statement on the
Zika-abortion debate last April following the CDC’s finding that the Zika virus
can cause some babies to be born with microcephaly.

“Naturally the Zika virus is a
cause for concern, and we call upon governments and medical professionals to
continue to develop appropriate treatments and interventions,” Father Pavone
said. “But in no way does this justify recourse to abortion. The child in the
womb is a patient too, and killing one’s patient is never an appropriate

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